Renee’s Law Seeks to Improve Workplace Safety in New York Group Homes

The New York State legislators have passed, and sent to Governor Cuomo’s desk, legislation that seeks to protect group home workers dealing with potentially violent juvenile delinquents. “Renee’s law” is a direct result of the 2009 murder of Renee Greco by two juveniles she supervised in a Buffalo, New York home for troubled teens.

Ms. Greco’s killers are now behind bars after bludgeoning her to death with a wooden table leg while she sat playing cards with other residents of the home. The two perpetrators were sentenced to 20 years and 25 years to life in prison.

The proposed legislation comes after New York recently closed 10 juvenile detention facilities and downsized several others. The state’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has been pushing for community-based programs and private alternatives to youth incarceration. At the same time, judges have been sending juveniles to alternative programs, reducing the number of youth in state-run detention centers from 2,313 to 627 over the last decade.

The Changes and Hopeful Impact

If enacted, the new law will require state-licensed facilities housing delinquent youth to document aggressive behavior, assess workplace safety and employ measures to prevent violence and catastrophic injuries. Required preventative measures include good outdoor lighting and non-violent self-defense training.

New York has 110 agencies licensed to operate residential facilities and more than 240 group homes and residential treatment centers. The added requirements of Renee’s Law could put a financial strain on the private contractors running the facilities and OCFS, which would have to inspect and monitor for compliance.

However, the increased safety for group home employees and other group home residents will surely outweigh the financial strain. Hopefully Renee’s law will have a positive impact allowing something good to come from such a senseless tragedy.